March 21, 2011

Google Scholar & You

Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about Google Scholar. I often get asked what I think about Google Scholar, so I wrote a post on my library's blog in response -- and have referred several students to it. I figured it was worth sharing with the wider community, so here it is again, in slightly modified form.

Q. What is Google Scholar?
A. Google search for scholarly articles, books, theses on a variety of topics, heavy on science & social science. Good for international materials.

Q. What do you think about Google Scholar?
  • easy to search
  • quick
  • good for citation searching (who's cited this article)
  • good coverage for international / non-English topics


  • can be hard to track down full-text of articles (see below).
  • no clear description of scope or scale of their holdings (are they a science search engine? social science? what neuroscience journals are included? how far back is the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience indexed?)
  • full-text may be from author's website -- which might or might not be the same as the published version
  • some metadata is wacky, leading to incorrect citations (see Peter Jacso's 2009 article on "ghost authors")

Q. How do I get full-text of articles I find through Google Scholar?
A. This is a huge question -- and it's easier to answer for the UNC community than for scholars at large. For UNC, use this link for Google Scholar and look for the "find article @ UNC" link to the right of the search results. UNC Library staff have activated "Find @ UNC" within Google Scholar to facilitate easy access to content available at UNC.

If you're not at UNC, but you are affiliated with a university, check Google Scholar Library Links page -- it's possible that your library has set up a linking system similar to what the good folks at UNC have done.

If you're not affiliated with a university, you may be asked to pay for an article you discover with Google Scholar. Check with your public library to see if they will request articles for you via Interlibrary Loan.

Q. What is "Find @ UNC"?
A. Links article metadata to article full-text if available through any UNC-licensed databases (using the OpenURL standard). If the article is in a 2008 issue of Journal of Communication, "Find @ UNC" knows that we have that issue available online through the publisher.

Q. Hey, that doesn't work for me!
A. It won't if you're off-campus and don't have the magic URL. If you have a UNC ONYEN, are off-campus, and want to use Google Scholar, use this link:

Q. Hmmm. I don't want to rely on Google Scholar so much. What else can I do?
A. The UNC community has many reliable, scholarly search engines for just about every topic. Those are listed on the Park Library home page. Your state library probably has some excellent academic search engines -- see what NC Live offers to North Carolina residents with a library card; Connecticut residents should check out

For More Information

March 09, 2011

Share Your Data!

NiemanLab is trying an experiment: in a blog post called Share your data! Tell us how your readers arrive at your site: search, social media, the front door?, they are asking readers to do just that. Joshua Benton states what libraries know, that there is a lot to be learned from sharing information (his actual quote: "there’s lots to be learned from seeing how one site’s audience compares to another’s.") and asked readers who run a news website to post answers to 4 questions:
  1. What percentage of your traffic comes from search engines?
  2. What percentage of your traffic comes from
  3. What percentage of your traffic comes from
  4. What percentage of your site’s visits begin on your front page?
The comments are chock full of interesting data.

I'd love to see similar data for libraries! I recently attended Paul Signorelli and Char Booth's ALA TechSource webcast on the Role of Web Analytics in the Library (post-class post and discussion) and am looking more carefully at my data.

I was initially very surprised to see that about 29% of my website's traffic comes from Google. But after knowing that and watching students navigate to my website during reference encounters, I see that instead of bookmarking the page, they just Google "park library jomc" or a variation. Mystery solved.

My challenge to you: read Benson's post, and then come back & post your library's analytic data. Respond to these questions, for the last 30 days:
  1. How do people get to your website & in what %? (This is called "Traffic Sources Overview" in Google Analytics.)
  2. Top 2-3 search terms to used in search to get to you.
  3. What are your top 2-3 pages?
(thanks to the Daily Tar Heel's Sara Gregory for tweeting her response to the this post)

March 02, 2011

Embodied Cognition

I mentioned Embodied Cognition briefly in my talk at SILS yesterday so thought I would post a bit more about it here. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a nice definition, which begins: "Embodied Cognition is a growing research program in cognitive science that emphasizes the formative role the environment plays in the development of cognitive processes."

What sparked my interest was this article in the January/February issue of Scientific American Mind: Body of Thought by Siri Carpenter which includes these tantalizing tidbits: "...a rapidly growing body of research indicates that metaphors joining body and mind reflect a central fact about the way we think: the mind uses the body to make sense of abstract concepts." Carpenter cites some interesting examples, two of which stand out to me:
  • Just in the past few years studies have shown that holding a hot cup of coffee or being in a comfortably heated room warms a person's feelings toward strangers ...
  • [T]hat sitting on a hard chair turns mild-mannered undergraduates into hard-headed negotiators.
Fascinating stuff!

library note: this article is not freely available on the Internet, but it is available to UNC and other institutional subscribers to Scientific American.

March 01, 2011

"User Services" ... or helping people in an academic library

My thoughts on User Services, or providing services to patrons in an academic library are many ... and I've just discussed them with students in Barbara Moran's Academic Libraries class at UNC's School of Information and Library Science. Notably, I am an embedded librarian, which is to say that I work where my patrons work. The Park Library is on the second floor of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, making contact with students and faculty very easy.

Beyond the location, I think about this work in terms of who I am helping, and so have organized the talk around these constiuent groups:

  1. Undergraduate patrons. They are first because they are so numerous! The School of Journalism and Mass Communication has roughly 800 undergraduates, and I work with them in many ways:

    • Instruction. In the academic year 2010-2011, I have taught or will teach a total of 33 classes, reaching about 600 students. Courses include Case Studies in Public Relations, African American Newspapers, History of Broadcasting, Law of Cyberspace, Magazine Writing & Editing, and Undergraduate Honors. I've taught two entry-level classes for MA and PhD students. You can see the full range at my course guides page.

    • Face-to-face / synchronous reference. I get most of my reference business from faculty referrals or from having taught students in class. The majority of the questions are in person, but several come via our LibraryH3lp chat sessions. In the calendar year 2010, my staff and I answered almost 800 in-person or chat questions from users, mostly reference, but many directional and technical questions as well. I detailed my theories of reference back in 2008, and they're still holding up.

    • The Library's website is an important component of my outreach, especially to undergraduates. I redesigned the website in summer 2010. It was intended to promote material I think undergraduates should use most (like Academic Search Premier and Communication & Mass Media Complete) -- I used a green star on the main page to highlight the really important databases.

    • I promote the library via Twitter and least 85 undergraduates following me back. Check out my Twitter favorites for a sense of the library promotion I do via Twitter.

    • I do my best to make the library a comfortable place to study, allowing food and beverages and offering PCs, Macs, wireless along with tables for solitary or group study.
  2. Faculty colleagues. I collaborate with my faculty colleagues quite a bit on teaching the courses I mentioned above.

    • I make it a point to attend faculty meetings and other gatherings of faculty. I want to be available in case they have questions for me. Often I see someone in the hall who says "oh, I've been meaning to ask you about Blah Blah Blah," and I know it's my presence that reminds them of their information need-- and the question gets answered. Additionally, it's important to be aware of what they are thinking about. It's good to know about new hires, because I can do collection development in a new area (always fun), and it's useful to know about curriculum changes or other elements of their daily work life. My role is to think about how I can help them do their work better or more efficiently.

    • I've been intrigued by conversations with John Dupuis, who blogs at Confessions of a Science Librarian. We've been cyber buddies for a few years and have met at two ScienceOnline conferences in RTP. Dupuis recently blogged about stealth librarianship, whereby we infiltrate (my word) ourselves into the work lives of our faculty colleages. Dupuis strongly believes we should step away from being so library-focused and "collaborate with faculty in presentations" and "...we must make our case to our patrons on their turf, not make our case to ourselves on our own turf." There are some interesting additional opinions at the In the Library with the Lead Pipe blog: Lead Pipe Debates the Stealth Librarianship Manifesto.

    • John's challenge to SILS students is: comment on his blog (at a mininum) or write your own manifesto.

    • I would like to collaborate with my faculty and publish in the JOMC literature about how librarian / faculty collaborations can be effective. This is one of my 2011 goals!

  3. Fellow librarians. That said, it's important to collaborate and cross-pollinate with our librarian colleagues as well. I was happy to have the time and energy this year to participate in Library Day in the Life #6 (see my #libday6 tweets here). I reported my daily tasks for my fellow librarians and was pleased to read about their daily tasks as well. I also participated as a way of demonstrating that librarians don't just sit quietly in the library and read and shelve. Some of the tasks I did that week:
    • Staff meeting
    • Future tweeting via Hootsuite
    • Met with a professor about teaching her PR Campaigns students to improve their research skills
    • Resolved a question regarding delivery of SRDS Circulation, an annual publication about newspaper circulation
    • Showed a student how to use RefWorks
    • Showed a student worker how to prepare serials for binding
    • Tried to figure out PubMed for the PR Campaigns class.
    • Got help with PubMed from a fellow UNC librarian also participating in libday6.
    • Met a fellow Mount Holyoke librarian at UNC who was also participating in libday6.
    • Weeded some of our book collection
    • Looked at long-term web analytics for library website.

  4. The Boss. I give my boss (Jean Folkerts, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication) all of the above information and more. I want her to know what I'm doing and what my staff are doing. I prepare gobs of data for her, which is how I knew how many reference interactions we had in 2010 and how many classes I've taught so far this academic year. Want more data? In 2010, we circulated over 1,400 items, and our patrons requested over 700 titles from libraries elsewhere on campus. My assistant (JOMC graduate Megan Garrett) has added over 1,800 titles to the catalog in the last year. There's more data still, but I'll stop now.
The overarching theme of my services to patrons is: be where users are and stand ready to help them. I offer help in person or in class, as well as through the library website. Further, I promote the library, and back it up with solid work. I talk-talk-talk about the terrific services we offer and I back it up by offering terrific services. It's an awesome job!